Notre Dame tournament reminds female hockey players of Mandi Schwartz’s legacy

Many in the hockey community recognize the Mandi Schwartz Memorial Tournament as the biggest female Midget AAA hockey tournament in Western Canada.

But for students, coaches, faculty and community members at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame — the meaning behind the annual event stretches beyond the game.

In 2011, the school decided to name the tournament after Schwartz after she lost her battle with leukemia earlier that year. Since then, it has been of upmost importance for Notre Dame and the community to keep her legacy alive.

Craig Perrett, head coach of Notre Dame’s female Midget AAA team, is one of those individuals at the college who educates his players and other students on Schwartz’s story.

He said it’s important for the school to remind the players and the hockey community of Mandi’s legacy.

“We want to continue to pass down who Mandi was – her determination, how she was as a player and a leader on campus, the stuff she had to fight through,” shared Perrett. “We want to continue to keep that alive because she is a huge part of our program.”

Mandi Schwartz with her parents Carol and Rick Schwartz. (Photo: Athol Murray College of Notre Dame)

Educating the hockey students on Schwartz’s connection with the school is one thing. But the tournament also brings out the school and community’s spirit.

Even though Christmas is only a handful of weeks away, Perrett admitted that it’s the best weekend of the year for the girls.

“They get excited, the school gets excited, we do pep rallies, the new girls get to learn about Mandi’s legacy and who she is,” he explained.

“We get to meet the Schwartz family. They come out and talk to the girls, they come in the dressing room and they even drop the puck.”

And the calibre of hockey the college attracts to the small village of Wilcox, Saskatchewan is impressive. Teams from Alberta, Manitoba and even British Columbia are willing to travel to the province in order to participate in the tournament.

Of course there are other clubs from Saskatchewan that compete in the event besides the Notre Dame Hounds, who finished in third place on Sunday after defeating Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Raiders 3-1.

The Regina Rebels fought their way to this year’s final but came up just short in the end, losing 3-2 in overtime to Calgary’s Edge School on Sunday afternoon at the Duncan McNeill Arena.

Rebels assistant coach Corey Terry talked about the tournament not only showcasing the best female Midget AAA hockey players in Western Canada; players also have the opportunity to impress representatives from across North America.

“We get access to a lot of schools and universities and it’s a very heavily scouted tournament,” said Terry. “It’s important to note that Hockey Canada is always out watching, and they are also gauging their top talents from around the country.”

While it wasn’t the finish Terry and his team were hoping for, he said the girls had a successful tournament, improving on their semifinal elimination from 2018.

The tournament has become a magnificent spectacle of young talent and entertaining women’s hockey over the last several years —and it all takes place right here in southern Saskatchewan.

But what the players take away holds more value than anything else. They learn about teamwork, leadership and hard work — only a few of the actions and beliefs that Mandi embodied on and off the ice.

No doubt the event is a product Mandi Schwartz would have been proud of.

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